Back to All Events

Building Municipalism from Spain to NYC

May 2015. The local elections in Spain brought up unprecented results. A set of new political forces, the so-called "municipal or citizen confluences" like Barcelona en Comú, Ahora Madrid, Valencia en Comú, Zaragoza en Común, Marea Atlántica, and others stormed into the elections, winning or achieving by coalition the city hall in Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Zaragoza (that is, four of the six biggest cities in Spain) and other important cities. For many established politicians and mainstream media, these results were unexpected: the movement cycle of the 15M or 'Indignados' movement seemed to be over at that time. But both the Municipal Confluences and Podemos (which maintain a close relationship, but also distinct structures) showed that something else was going on: a mutation of the movement cycle into what was termed as an "institutional takeover". 

Barcelona en Comú has been undoubtedly the main inspiration for these confluences. Led by Ada Colau, former spokeperson for the PAH (the extremely innovative Platform for People Affected by Mortgages), Barcelona en Comú has become a model on how to build an open and participatory approach to electoral and institutional politics. The whole organizational and campaign process was made combining neighborhood assemblies with the use of online tools in the elaboration of the ethics code and the electoral program of the new political formation. These practices, added to the symbolic force of Ada Colau's leadership, have highlighted, among other aspects, the possibility for a "feminization of politics". 

What is a "Municipal Confluence"? Is a confluence the same as an electoral coalition? 
How is it built? What are its ingredients and its organizational forms? 
Which were the methods and mechanisms used throughout the organizing process?
What is the relationship between the confluences, Podemos and preexisting left wing political parties? 
How do the Municipal Confluences relate to social movements? 
What practices, values and structures account for a "feminization of politics"? 
What achievements and shortcomings has Barcelona en Comú found in its first two years of ruling Barcelona? What are the potentials, but also the limitations and complexities of this "institutional takeover"?
Which are the international and global dimensions of local governments? 
How can these municipal initiatives and other similar ones going on in Europe and US help each other and work together? 

These and many other issues will be discussed with Laura Roth. Laura works as a professor at Pompeu Fabra University. She focuses on the connections between democracy and the law. Recently, she studied the political culture of the 15M movement and its relationship with new forms of democratic participation. She coordinates the Participation Committee of the municipal platform Barcelona en Comú.

This conversation intends to open a series of encounters to discuss not only the cases of Barcelona en Comú and other similar initiatives, but also to begin a collective process of thinking about how these ideas could be translated into the US and NYC context, especially given the complex conjuncture opened by the beginning of the Trump administration. How would a US and NYC Municipalism look like? What ingredients, forces, capabilities and languages are needed? What are cities and Municipal power capable of in the age of Trump? 

For an introduction to Barcelona en Comú and related issues:

"Left-wing Populism and the feminization of politics" by Laura Roth and Kate Shea Baird. 
https://roarmag.org/essays/left-populism-feminization-politics/

"America needs a network of rebel cities to stand up to Trump" by Kate Shea Baird and Steve Hughes. 
https://medium.com/@BComuGlobal/america-needs-a-network-of-rebel-cities-to-stand-up-to-trump-7c07202e7cc2

Municipal Recipes (A conversation between activists from Barcelona en Comú and Ahora Madrid) 
https://vimeo.com/126352895 
http://municipalrecipes.cc/ 

"The Prospects for Radical Democracy in Spain" by Vicente Rubio-Pueyo and Pablo La Parra
http://inthesetimes.com/article/17985/spains-municipal-elections-and-the-prospects-for-radical-democracy

Earlier Event: February 24
Vibras NYC: Afrofuturo
Later Event: February 25
PBC Presents: Kics-N-Snares